Top 10 Irish surnames that are actually Viking

Do you have a Viking surname? Read below to find out if your name originates from this period of Irish history.

The Vikings famously first arrived in Ireland in 795 AD, going on to establish strongholds in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, and Waterford. They played a prominent role in Irish history, and so there are many Irish surnames that are actually Viking.

The Vikings and the Irish already living in Ireland didn’t always see eye to eye. As a result, there were many battles, like the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The Irish high king, Brian Boru, fought and successfully defeated a Viking army, which was the catalyst for peace between the Celtic people and the Vikings.

Many Vikings married Irish people, and the two groups soon started to adopt each other’s customs and ideas. This also meant Irish families were adopting Viking names.

Vikings raided and settled in Ireland in the early days.
Credit: Flickr / Hans Splinter

So, where do Viking surnames come from? The naming system used was called patronymics.

The idea behind this system was that the child of a Viking man and woman would take the first name of the father or sometimes the mother and add ‘son’ to the end of it.

Dr. Alexandra Sanmark of the University of the Highlands and Islands goes on to explain further stating, “A famous example from a 13th-century Icelandic saga, describing the Viking Age, is Egil Skallagrimsson, who was the son of a man named Skalla-Grim.”

However, today this system is no longer in use in Scandinavian countries except for Iceland.

Now that we have the history part of it out of the way, let’s find out what Irish surnames are actually Viking.

Ireland Before You Die’s overview of facts about Irish surnames that are Vikings

  • The surname of Broderick originates from the Viking name of ‘Brodir’. It was first recorded in County Carlow and descended from the Irish surname of ‘O’Bruadier’, which meant ‘brother’.
  • The Irish surname of ‘O’Loughlin’ literally means Viking. It finds its roots in County Clare and the O’Loughlin family was said to be one of the most powerful Viking families on the Atlantic shore.
  • The name O’Rourke comes from the Viking name of ‘Roderick’. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the O’Rourke’s were the Kings of Connacht.
  • Another Connacht name is McManus. This derives from the Viking word of ‘Magnus’, which means ‘great’.
  • The name of Doyle descends from Danish Vikings. The name means ‘dark foreigner’, referring to the darker hair Danish Vikings had compared to their Norwegian counterparts.

10. Cotter − rebel name from the Rebel County

Cotter is one of the Irish surnames that are actually Viking.

This name originates in Cork and translates to “son of Oitir”, derived from the Viking name ‘Ottar’. The name is composed of elements meaning ‘fear’, ‘dread’, and ‘army’ (not intimidating at all).

Some notable people with this name include Andrew Cotter, Edmund Cotter, and Eliza Taylor Cotter.

9. Doyle − 12th most common surname in Ireland

Doyle came from Danish Vikings.

The name meaning “dark foreigner” came from Danish Vikings. It comes from the old Irish name ‘O Dubhghaill’, meaning “descendants of Dubhghaill”.

The ‘dark’ reference refers to the hair rather than the skin colour, as the Danish Vikings had dark hair compared to the Norwegian Vikings.

Some famous Doyles you might recognise include Anne Doyle, Roddy Doyle, and Kevin Doyle.

READ MORE: Have a look at Ireland Before You Die’s article on the top 5 places that were raided by Vikings in Ireland

8. Higgins − our president’s surname

Higgins is one of the Irish surnames that are actually Viking.
Credit: Instagram / @presidentirl

The surname comes from the Irish word ‘uiginn’, meaning “Viking”. The original name holder was a grandson of Niall, the High King of Tara.

Some famous people with the name include our Irish president Michael D Higgins, Alex Higgins, and Bernado O’Higgins, who founded the Chilean Navy. Also, the main street in Santiago is named Avenida O’Higgins after him.

LEARN MORE about out President with IB4UD’s article on 20 fascinating facts about Michael D. Higgins

7. McManus − another Irish surname that is Viking

McManus comes from the Viking word Magnus.

The name McManus comes from the Viking word ‘Magnus’ meaning “great”. The Irish then put their own spin on it by adding ‘Mac’, meaning “son of”.

The name originated from Connacht in County Roscommon. J.P. McManus, Alan McManus, and Liz McManus are some well-known people with this surname.

6. Hewson − Bono’s real name

Hewson, one of the Irish surnames that are actually Viking, is Bono's real second name.

The name Hewson visibly follows the patronymics system with the word “son” at the end of the name.

The name means “son of little Hugh” and was first recorded in Britain with the Hewson clans, then migrating to Ireland.

The irony of the most famous person with his name is that many people don’t know it is his name.

The frontman of U2, Bono. His real name is Paul Hewson. It doesn’t sound as rockstar as Bono, we will admit.

5. O’Rourke − a famous king

O'Rourke comes from the Viking personal name Roderick.

Next on our list of Irish surnames that are actually Viking is O’Rourke. This name, which means “son of Ruarc”, is derived from the Viking personal name ‘Roderick’.

The name ‘Roderick’ means “famous” and is said to come from counties Leitrim and Cavan.

Around the time of the 11th and 12th centuries, the O’Rourke clan were the Kings of Connacht, making them the most powerful family in Ireland.

Famous O’Rourkes you might know include Sean O’Rourke, Derval O’Rourke, and Mary O’Rourke.

LEARN MORE: Keeping with Viking history, check out IB4UD’s article on the 10 facts about the Vikings in Ireland that you probably didn’t know

4. Howard − did you know this Irish surname was actually Viking?

Howard is one of the Irish surnames that are actually Viking.

Howard comes from the Viking personal name Haward which includes elements meaning “high” and “guardian”.

Although it is more commonly an English surname, it was seen in Gaelic names such as ‘Ó hOghartaigh’ and ‘Ó hIomhair’. Some well-known Howards are Ron Howard, Terence Howard, and Dwight Howard.

3. O’Loughlin − the descendants of the Vikings

O’Loughlin literally means Viking.

This surname literally means Viking, just like the surname Higgins. The name is derived from the Irish wordLochlann’. The name comes from County Clare on the west coast of Ireland.

The O’Loughlin family was thought to be the most powerful family on the shores of the Atlantic and Galway Bay in and around the time of the Vikings.

It is said that the Chief of the O’Loughlins was seated at Craggans in Clare and known as “The King of the Burren”.

Alex O’Loughlin, Jack O’Loughlin, and David O’Loughlin are some of the well-known people who share the surname.

2. McAuliffe − know anyone with this Viking name?

McAuliffe is one of the Irish surnames that are actually Viking

This surname comes from the old Gaelic name ‘Mac Amhlaoibh’ meaning “relic of gods”, and this name was derived from the Viking personal name ‘Olaf’.

Interestingly, the name is rarely found outside of Munster. The Chief of the McAuliffe clan resided in Castle McAuliffe, near Newmarket in Cork.

Famous McAuliffe’s include Christa McAuliffe, Callan McAuliffe, and Rosemary McAuliffe.

1. Broderick − our last Irish surname that is actually Viking

Broderick is another surname that has links to Vikings.

Broderick was first recorded in County Carlow and is a descendant of the Irish name ‘O’ Bruadeir’, meaning “brother”.

This name came from the Viking first name ‘Brodirand was even the name of a past King of Dublin in the 12th century. Our famous Brodericks are Matthew Broderick, Chris Broderick, and Helen Broderick.

That concludes our list of Irish surnames that are actually Viking or are Viking-inspired surnames. Was your Viking-inspired surname on there, or does your name come from Norse origin? Find our more in our article on the top 10 facts you never knew about Irish surnames.

Other notable mentions

Jennings is another Irish surname that has links to Vikings..

Jennings: This name is of Anglo-Saxon descent spreading to the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland and Wales in early times, and is found in many medieval manuscripts throughout these countries.

Halpin: The name itself is a derivative of the pre-9th century Norse-Viking name ‘Harfinn’.

Halpin is the shortened anglicized form of Gaelic ‘Ó hAilpín’, meaning “descendant of Alpín”.

Kirby: This name has its origins in Northern England, from Kirby or Kirkby, which comes from Old Norse ‘kirkja’, meaning “church”, and ‘býr’, meaning “settlement”.

It was adopted as an English equivalent of Gaelic ‘Ó Garmhaic’, a personal name meaning ‘dark son’.

Your questions answered about the Vikings in Ireland

Read our article and still have question? Then we have you covered. Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about this topic from our readers and online.

There are many Irish surnames that are actually Viking, mainly from Viking settlement in Ireland in 800AD.

How long did the Vikings stay in Ireland?

The Vikings began raiding Ireland around 800 AD but were then defeated by Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Did the Vikings name Dublin?

Yes. They named the spot where the Liffey meets the Poddle ‘Dubh Linn’, meaning “black pool”.

What do you call a female Viking?

They were called shield-maidens in Scandinavian folklore.

What is the oldest Viking town in Ireland?

Waterford is the oldest Viking town in Ireland. It was established in 914AD.


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